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Abstinence

From Chapter 14 of Lights Along the Way by R. Twerski on Mesillas Yesharim

Abstinence in conduct refers to secluding oneself from society in order to be able to devote oneself more fully to the Divine service and meditation.

One shouldn't go to an extreme of isolation, however, because one should relate to people.

On the contrary, one should seek association with upright people as is necessary for one's studies and livelihood. Thereafter the person may seclude himself in order to commune with G-d.

- end quote from the Ramchal

Ramchal discourages a monstic lifestyle, and urges that a person participate in improvement of the community as well as in earning a livelihood. However one should avoid associating with people who may exert a negative influence on one's spirituality.

We hear a lot about "peer pressure" and some people defend that behavior by saying they don't wish to stand out as nonconformists. We must be extremely wary of such arguments because they are often nothing but rationalizations. We can generallyu choose our associates and friends, and if we feel pressure, it may be because we have gravitated toward the wrong peer group. It is also possible to follow one's own coursse, which may vary with one's environment, without standing out as a nonconformist. However in those situations where one's moral principles are at risk, one should not hesitate to adhere to what is right and proper, even if this should differ sharply with one's environs.

- R. Twerski


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